What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Characterized by pervasive mood instability, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, negative self-image and harmful behavior, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness.
BPD is associated with high rates of self-harm and, in severe cases, suicidal behavior. The high risks for suicide and greater impairment are highest in the young adult years.
Symptoms of BPD
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by:
- Intense bouts of anger, depression or anxiety that last hours to days long
- Episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury or drug or alcohol abuse
- Distorted thoughts and negative sense of self
- Frequent and impulsive changes in life-altering decisions
- Highly unstable patterns of social relationships
- High sensitivity to rejection
- Impulsive behaviors like excessive spending, risky sex and binge eating
It is common to see borderline personality disorder occur with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other personality disorders.
What Does It Look Like If a Man You Know Might Have BPD?
A series of intense but stormy relationships is often the first thing people notice about a man with BPD. He will fall in love quickly and can fall out of love just as fast.
Similarly, in a friendship or family relationship, when he has been offended, he immediately stops all contact with that person and cuts them out of his life in anger. He is notorious for holding grudges.
A man with BPD may harm people and bring excessive emotion and drama to relationships, but deep down he usually doesn’t want to hurt people; he just wants to be loved and is desperate for it. Men with BPD appear needy and manipulative, but they are desperately seeking to feel love they’ve never felt before.
When symptomatic, a man with BPD is walking around in a living hell and perceived as universally hostile. He walks around with incredible inner pain, depression and free-floating anxiety.
Dependent, dramatic and highly manipulative, BPD sufferers have learned to cope in these dysfunctional ways due to the overwhelming fear and emotional pain they endure. The emotional instability coupled with impulsivity places these individuals at risk of drug or alcohol abuse.
The Myth of BPD as a Female Disorder
Women are diagnosed with BPD at a ratio of 3-to-1 to men. However, in general, population studies, the occurrence rates are evenly distributed. While it is true that statistically more women than men are diagnosed with BPD, there are reasons for the statistics.
For one thing, men, in general, are more averse to seeking professional help for medical or mental problems. And when they do talk to a counselor or doctor, BDP is often misdiagnosed in men.
In fact, the vast majority of men with borderline personality disorder go undiagnosed.
Men are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because BPD manifests differently in men than women and is interpreted differently.
Borderline Personality Disorder in Men
Borderline personality disorder in men is often overlooked and brushed off with a recommendation for an anger management class. Men tend to externalize behaviors like aggression, violent patterns and antisocial traits, including heavier substance use than women.
Sometimes these externalized behaviors are misdiagnosed as antisocial personality disorder, anger management problems or something else. Ironically, people with BPD complain of feeling misunderstood and in reality, they are being misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
Here are some ways BPD manifests in men:
- Sensitive to criticism while responding with aggression
- Controlling through criticism
- Holding grudges
- Fear of rejection played out in jealousy and using sex to alleviate his feelings of rejection
- Rejecting relationships – when he’s been offended by someone, he hates them; he sees people in good or bad absolutes
- Jealous or possessive insecurities, but emotionally detached from relationships
- Using alcohol or drugs to relieve his constant free-floating anxiety
Why Men’s Only Rehab May Be the Solution
Gender-specific rehab gets better results. Without the distraction of the opposite sex, guys are free be more open in group settings.
Men and women have different reasons for using substances, heal differently, and have different reactions to treatments. By focusing on only men, rehab can be uplifting in shared experiences and bonding with peers — a proven necessary component of recovery — in a way that can’t happen in a co-ed setting.
A Common Co-Occurring Disorder
If you notice your male companion or loved one exhibits irrational behaviors at times, substance abuse and the underlying mental health problem of borderline personality disorder may be to blame.
Only medical professionals are qualified to accurately diagnose mental health conditions, such as personality disorders. However, very often it is the partner or family member who brings to light the issues that the victim of the disorder cannot see himself.
Traits that Overlap with Drug Abuse
The relationship between BPD and addiction is as stormy as the individual’s romantic relationships.
The alcoholism or substance use brings out the antisocial behaviors like rage, anger and depression.
Yet, the man suffering from borderline personality feels a strong need to use drugs or alcohol to numb his numerous fears and to stop his mind from racing with constant free-floating anxiety.
Several symptoms of BDP are similar to symptoms of addiction, so it can be complicated to determine whether someone has a dual diagnosis. Both conditions display traits of:
- Impulsivity and instability in job, relationships, finances and responsibilities
- Apparent lack of concern for one’s own well-being
- Mood swings and depression
- Manipulative, deceitful actions to get what the person wants
Drug Abuse Treatment
Because the signs and symptoms of BPD and addiction have some overlap, these diseases can be difficult to distinguish and treat while at a traditional rehab center. Unless you find a co-occurring disorder rehab center, the facility will not have the resources to properly treat your loved one.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment
BPD is a serious psychiatric illness, and the treatment thereof is notoriously challenging, but there are various modalities available.
Exercising and consuming foods or supplements high in choline and tryptophan can benefit neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and serotonin, which help with emotion and mood regulation. Natural bright light helps, and meditation has been proven to increase dopamine in the brain.
Behavioral modifications along with group, peer and family support, as well as psychotherapy, are key therapies as well.
Hope for BPD and Addiction
People with BPD often need extensive mental health services, including hospitalization. Yet, with help, many BPD sufferers improve over time and lead productive lives.
The addiction counseling services and behavior therapies for drug abuse offered at Reflections Recovery Center have a long history of helping men recover from addictions. Additionally, our team has the know-how and experience to uncover underlying mental health illnesses while treating the drug abuse or alcohol problem.
Recovery can be intense, especially when facing a dual diagnosis, but we have seen many men heal from the enormous emotional burdens the disease of addiction placed on them and their loved ones.
If you suspect your loved one struggles with addiction and a possible mental health issue, do not hesitate to get him into a program that addresses the addiction, has a working knowledge of dual diagnosis and treats co-occurring disorders.